Brilliant, warm skies casting a special sunset glow right into the camera. Tap. A silhouette of two fingers that strangely signify peace held up against the same brilliant warm skies. Tap. A face staring out into the brilliant warm skies like it holds the secret to a life full of enough sleep and unlimited pizza. Tap, tap. A yoga-ish pose by two friendly figures, radiating happiness onto that same brilliant warm sky. Tap, tap, tap. It’s all that same brilliant, warm sunset. Except one shot only a hundred people see. Another a hundred thousand.
Everyone knows that Instagram feeds are supposed to be aesthetic and equally balanced with warm filters and cool filters in a specific sequential order all your friends scoff at. And even though Instagram allows pictures of any quadratic dimension now, how is that even helping your feed? But there are some people who get it just right. Just the right amount of skin, just the right amount of sass, just the right amount of style. A ridiculously huge number of likes start pouring in, and an even more ridiculous number of followers know their every move. Whether it’s an aerial picture of strawberries or some inane shot of them in a car somewhere, they’re being tracked.
And that’s where everything changes. Those seemingly random pictures of sunglasses on a wooden table or sneakers on grass start to mean something. Look closely. The brand label has very carefully been translucently exposed. Those sneakers are the same ones you’re going to see plastered on advertising sites in a while. And they’ll be eerily recognizable.
What started out as something you do to look cool has actually turned out to be a catalog of sorts, a medium you can exploit wholly to your benefit. Or a blog you started to share your interests with the world has now made your interests the worlds. Social media, yes, that old thing of the twenty-first century, one that is equally shunned and appreciated by every generation that came before, can now work to one’s advantage. And it all started with an insecurity, a necessity to feel validated.
Social media influencers open up a whole new stream of ‘advertising’, if you can call it that. It’s a revolution for the brand, a way to reach out to an optimized target audience with absolutely no effort of their own. Their top consumers have now become their advertisers. Yes, we’ve gone full circle, making advertising agencies almost redundant, and hashtags almost profitable. Based on where you live, what you eat and how far you’re willing to go for just the right pout, you can now apply a ton of lipsticks, post a ton of selfies, and call that a hard day’s work.
For those clever companies that look to social media for endorsement and not random celebrities, the resulting reach increases tenfold in exclusivity as compared to a conventional billboard ad campaign. Influencers pick out the easily attracted customer, reel them in with the number of likes they get, and pitch them into this world of subtle reminders to become cool. Depending on the influencer’s index: where the likes come from, what the influencer’s interests are, or where they like to drink coffee, the company handpicks the ideal customer to attract more customers.
But doesn’t this all seem a little too impressionable? How can a fairy-lit picture of a tube of lipstick make you want to buy it? How can an ‘OOTD’ picture with a nice-looking watch peeking out from behind an abnormally large phone make you want to buy the watch? Then again, if you identify with the picture you see, you strive to replicate it in reality. That’s the whole point of social media, isn’t it? To show the world you’re cooler than they are because that same watch looks like it belongs next to a Starbucks cup with a misspelled name.
So next time you see a solid colourful wall just begging to be stood in front of, go for it. You never know, maybe that could score you a free meal at that new vegan café down the street.